A village council in Benje village, located in India’s Chhattisgarh state, passed a resolution on 6 February 2017, banning the practice of non-Hindu faiths, essentially deeming Christianity illegal. This resolution was passed despite a decision by the High Court of Chhattisgarh overturning similar resolutions.
A local newspaper in Benje, the Patrika, reported the news about the resolution, while also noting that local Hindu nationalist groups arranged for neighbouring villages to pass similar resolutions. According to ICC sources, there is only one Christian family in the village Benje. A Christian leader, who wished to remain anonymous, contends, “The magnitude of [the] immediate effect might be small, but the resolution will have huge consequences for the future as no one will be able [to] preach or practise Christianity in the area.”
These resolutions banning the practice of non-Hindu faiths started in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh in June 2014. Then, more than 50 villages in Bastar passed resolutions which banned all non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches in the villages. The institution of these bans led to a spree of physical violence and social boycotts against Christians in the district.
Christians, represented by Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), filed a petition in the High Court of Chhattisgarh challenging the bans’ constitutional validity under Article 25 of India’s constitution which states, “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” In January 2016, the High Court overturned the bans.
Dr Arun Pannalal, a Christian activist and the president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told ICC, “Even though Chhattisgarh’s High Court invalidated the resolutions last year, the resolutions continue to spread to other districts like Balod, Kondagaon and Kankher.”
He added, “There has been [a] shift from the traditional way of [persecution] from individual cases of harassment to institutional terrorism that denies poor Christians their basic right to live on par with others. There is not much we can do except fight in the courts.”
Source: International Christian Concern